Dear UMPI Students, Faculty, and Staff,
It is with great regret that I write to inform you that the University of Maine at Presque Isle and her fellow institutions in the University of Maine System will not be able to proceed with planned in-person commencement exercises on May 9. My apologies to those who were informed of this by media reports before receiving this formal notification from your institution.
While UMPI won’t be hosting traditional in-person commencement exercises, our graduation planning group is working hard to put together a virtual commencement that celebrates our senior class. We understand that this graduating class has been faced with challenges that no other graduating class has experienced before–with students moving home part way through the semester and with their college experience moving online, and the logistical challenges that come with that–so we are doing everything we can to still make it a special day.
I have asked Evan Zarkadas, our student representative to the Board of Trustees, and a member of the Student Government Association, as appointed by its President, Matthew Payan, to serve as representatives on this planning group.
Although this is an overwhelmingly disappointing development, it is also one that the University Presidents and Chancellor recognize as an absolutely necessary decision, given the unfolding events of this pandemic over the past weeks. Our first and foremost consideration must always be the safety of our students, their families and friends, and our communities.
We will communicate directly with the UMPI community, most especially our students, as we develop plans for a distance-based graduation ceremony on May 9 and subsequent events honoring our graduates at Homecoming 2020 in September and other venues.
I include the notification sent late this afternoon by the Chancellor’s office below so you can read the direct words of Chancellor Malloy.
Once again, my heartfelt apologies for this necessary but incredibly difficult decision, to our students, their families, and the entire UMPI community. This has proven to be a heartbreakingly difficult spring term; your fortitude, resilience, and perseverance in the face of this unprecedented situation is remarkable. To our graduating seniors, know how much we value you as a truly remarkable group of individuals who, collectively, comprise that most honored Class of 2020.
Raymond J. Rice
UMS Colleagues –
Our core mission is to transmit and expand knowledge through our teaching, research, and public service to the State of Maine. When our faculties confirm that a student has met the requirements to earn an academic degree in a particular field of knowledge, we joyfully celebrate with commencement exercises, caps and gowns, and colorful academic regalia, all rooted in centuries-old English academic tradition. Honoring these traditions in our own times is a noteworthy rite of passage to which our students rightfully look forward as each academic term nears its close. That these celebrations of academic achievement should occur is beyond question.
And yet, none of us could have foreseen even just a few weeks ago how the sudden onslaught of the global COVID-19 pandemic would make celebrating these traditions in the normal sense a serious threat to public health. It is with a sober sense of responsibility that our Presidents and I have therefore decided that we cannot proceed with our planned in-person commencement exercises in early May.
I want to be very clear, though: All UMS universities and the Law School will be awarding degrees on schedule and recognizing the academic achievements of our graduating students. While traditional in-person commencement exercises are not possible during the pandemic, each university will determine an appropriate alternative celebration that balances the need to protect public health with the joyful recognition of our students’ academic aspirations and achievements.
Our universities will be communicating directly with their students over the next two weeks about planning for alternative commencement celebrations.
Knowing the disappointment that comes from having to communicate this difficult decision, I’d like to share, in closing, an uplifting reflection on the very best of what we do in higher education. The following poem was written by John Masefield, Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1930-1967, for the 1946 inauguration of the Chancellor of the University of Sheffield in the aftermath of World War II. To paraphrase Masefield below, our work to bring thought into the world goes on, and we will celebrate the academic achievements that come from it, pandemic or not.
There are few earthly things more splendid than a university.
In these days of broken frontiers and collapsing values, when every future looks somewhat grim and the dams are down and the floods are making misery, when every ancient foothold has become something of a quagmire, wherever a university stands, it stands and shines; wherever it exists, the free minds of all, urged on to full and fair enquiry, may still bring wisdom into human affairs.
There are few earthly things more beautiful than a university.
It is a place where those who hate ignorance may strive to know, where those who perceive truth may strive to make others see; where seekers and learners alike, banded together in the search for knowledge, will honor thought in all its finer ways, will welcome thinkers in distress or in exile, will uphold ever the dignity of thought and learning, and will exact standards in these things. They give to the young in their impressionable years, the bond of a lofty purpose shared, of a great corporate life whose links will not be loosed until they die. They give young people that close companionship for which youth longs, and that chance of the endless discussion of the themes which are endless, without which youth would seem a waste of time.
There are few things more enduring than a university.
Religions may split into sect or heresy; dynasties may perish or be supplanted, but for century after century the university will continue, and the stream of life will pass through it, and the thinker and the seeker will be bound together in the undying cause of bringing thought into the world.
To be a member of these great societies must ever be a glad distinction.
Dannel P. Malloy